One football season many years ago, I decided to watch all the Chicago Bears games on TV. I had never really given the sport a chance before, even though I grew up where the Arkansas Razorbacks inspire a religious fervor rivaled only by, well, the locals’ religious fervor.
I guess I wanted to see, at long last, what all the fuss was about.
Plus, I figured the weekly football-viewing ritual would give me a reason to put my chips-and-dip bowls to more frequent use. I have a midcentury set my husband and I purchased at an antiques store. A large bowl for chips pairs with a smaller receptacle for dips that clips to the glass rim of the bigger basin.
We hardly ever use the set. But even I knew one of the main rules of football is that the game must be watched while consuming dip. As far as I can tell, it’s the sport’s chief selling point.
I chose the Bears because I lived in Chicago at the time. If geographical loyalty hadn’t been a factor I probably would have gone with the Baltimore Ravens because that team takes its name from a poem by sometime Baltimorean Edgar Allan Poe, and, after all, I did minor in English.
The quarterback for the Bears back then was Jay Cutler, who was kind of cute in a surly yet doofy, frat-boy sort of way. But he didn’t have much charisma. Or much of a chin. And he was newly married to Kristin Cavallari of Laguna Beach and not-vaccinating-her-children fame (Team L.C. for life).
My favorite Bears player was Brandon Marshall due in large part to his excellent facial bone structure and sweet smile. What’s more, he had recently announced that he had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, and I admired his willingness to show vulnerability and his efforts to destigmatize mental health struggles.
Both Marshall and Cutler have since retired from the NFL, apparently. According to a cursory internet search, Marshall now does TV sports commentary. Cutler, for his part, has gotten divorced and was recently misidentified on Jeopardy! when a contestant mistook the athlete for—o ignominy!—Tim Tebow.
When I embarked on my season of football fandom, I already knew some rudiments of the game—e.g., you get four chances to advance 10 yards, a touchdown is worth six points, the game must be watched while eating dip, and everyone involved should pretend repeated head trauma is no biggie.
But I wanted a better understanding of what I was watching, so I read a book called Get Your Own Damn Beer, I’m Watching the Game! A Woman’s Guide to Loving Pro Football by Holly Robinson Peete, a TV actress who married an NFL player.
All that I remember about working my way through this tome is that I kept thinking, Okay, but I sure hope Mr. Peete has put in the same amount of work to know all about his wife’s career. Like, he better have watched every single episode of 21 Jump Street—and not just the Johnny Depp seasons, either. I’m talking everything, even the spin-off starring Richard Grieco.
And speaking of not getting back what you put into a relationship, the Bears did not, despite my best efforts, have a very good season that year, winning only eight games and losing the same number.
I faithfully watched all of those matches on television, except for the last one, which my husband and I attended in person at Soldier Field. My father got us tickets as a Christmas gift.
The Bears lost to their hated rivals, the Green Bay Packers. This was sad because 1.) the loss disqualified Chicago from the playoffs and 2.) I had a sobering vision of receiving only football-related gifts for every Christmas and birthday for the rest of my life.
Talk about the agony of defeat.